Huge blow for hockey

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

HENDERSON, Nev. -- What monumental stupidity!

We have to grant the usual presumption of innocence, of course, but when a state's attorney general goes public after a wide-ranging four-month investigation, it's not unreasonable to make a comment on the basis that there's some truth to what he's saying.

And that comment would be? What monumental stupidity!

Gambling is legal in so many venues now, why would you feel the need to bring into disrepute so much of what you hold dear?

You can go online and set up accounts with a host of legal bookmakers. You can have your winnings put right into an account that you can draw upon at your leisure. No one would be any wiser.

So why then, would you get involved in an illegal betting ring?

If you're one of those who set up the ring, did you really need the money? Didn't hockey give you enough over the years that you didn't need to put its reputation on the line for the sake of a commission on illegal bets?

And if you're one of those who used the illegal operation to place your bets, why would you do so?

Let's face it, there aren't many reasons. One is that you knew that those close to you would be livid if they found out, so you tried to avoid their approbation. Another is that you thought it was something of a lark and didn't consider the consequences. Another is that you thought you could make money by gambling. Another is that you thought you'd get away with it.

In every one of those cases, the original premise is reinforced. How stupid can you be?

There is a deep-seated gambling culture in the NHL. Then again, there's a deep-seated gambling culture in the other major sports. There's a deep-seated gambling culture wherever rich people can be found in profusion.

And from that, we can conclude that this investigation is going to get a lot wider. Hockey insiders know a number of players who are not strangers to the high-stakes rooms at the Nevada casinos.

It's not just hockey. Baseball had Pete Rose. Basketball had Michael Jordan. Football had Alex Karras and Paul Hornung.

But that doesn't justify anything that these hockey people have done.

The game always had seemed cleaner than the others. It had its problems and any hockey fan would be able to provide a long list.

But the morality of hockey players always seemed somehow to be at a higher level than what could be found in other sports. Hockey players were the guys who admitted their mistakes, who played on broken legs, who always signed the autographs.

But now, if this investigation uncovers what those of us who love the game fear it will uncover, hockey will be lumped in with the rest of them.

It probably shouldn't be. The vast majority of the people in it still qualify as being the friendliest, most honest, most accessible athletes in sport, but their reputation will have been tarnished by those who thought they could involve themselves in a continent-wide illegal gambling ring and no one would notice.

What monumental stupidity.


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